Safety Regulations Written in Blood

By MarEx 2014-10-21 17:37:00

Op-Ed by Captain Özgür Özdelice, CHIRP/MARS Ambassador

SAFETY FIRST! For sure everyone on board will be very familiar these two words. We see this message stenciled onto the superstructure of many ships, but is it just a slogan or does it have real meaning?

Far too often we can see on board, from the senior officer to the junior deck rating, they do not pay particular special attention to safety. This is despite the clear messages in the ship’s Safety Management System and company circular letters. Too often we read formal incident reports that this prescriptive safety advice and recommended standard practice are not supported by the actions of the shipping company shore based staff. Managers and superintendents do not demonstrate SAFETY FIRST and therefore MONEY FIRST should replace the painted slogan.

Why is it that not a single day passes without an incident in the shipping sector? It is easy to sit back and do nothing, but when The Nautical Institute and CHIRP asked for volunteers to encourage their new initiative on incident and near miss reporting, I signed up. 

The main reason for me joining is to share with my fellow seafarers, the lessons learned from near miss reports and also my own experience on how safety can make a difference. This way I believe I can influence seafarers and improve their safety culture. It may not be easy to tell them the truth but you can be confident that if you share any unsafe situation that you were a witness to, this may help to preserve one person's life.

Let us not forget, safety related regulations and rules are written in ink but they also have been written by spilt blood! Let us look back in time; due to a significant increase in the loss of ships in the 1860's as a result of the overloading of ships, a member of the British Parliament, Samual Plimsoll advocated the creation of legislation creating the load line in order to ensure sufficient freeboard. 

The sinking of the Titanic on 14 April 1912 after colliding with an iceberg was the catalyst for the adoption in 1914 of the first International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). ISPS came into force in order to enhance the security of ships and port facilities, developed in response to the perceived threats to ships and port facilities in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in the United States. 

Prior to these events there will have been many unreported near misses, hazardous occurrences and incidents; all too often we witness  seafarers will change their approach to safety only because of government legislation and not because they believe it is good for themselves and their fellow shipmates.  

A good standard of safety, clearly supported by managers, will save shipping companies significant amounts of money. If you don’t believe me, try having a major incident and see how much it costs the company!

I became a CHIRP/MARS ambassador because I do not want to see seafarers injured at sea, nor to witness the painful experience for those involved and their loved ones at home. 

The aim of CHIRP is to seek out root causes, identify the lessons learned and to consider how best this information can be used to prevent reoccurrence elsewhere in the maritime industry. CHIRP does not seek to apportion blame to any company or individual(s). The term ‘whistleblowing’ is not one used in CHIRP as that is often used to cast blame on an organization or an individual.  

A CHIRP report can be generated either online here, as a written report (via post/Freepost), or by telephone to the Charitable Trust’s office in Farnborough England. Reports come from professional and amateur participants in the maritime sector and upon receipt, all reports are validated by Captain John Rose, director (maritime).

Please use this freely available and confidential reporting program.

I wish all seafarers a safe life on board and ashore.